David J. Apple, MD, a Pioneer in Ophthalmology and Pathology, Dies at Age 69
Tuesday, August 30, 2011 | Practice Development
David J. Apple, MD, 69, a famed ophthalmologist and educator who worked tirelessly to legitimize and advance Sir Harold Ridley’s invention of the IOL, died August 18. During his career, which spanned more than 30 years, Dr. Apple presented more than 1,400 scientific lectures, 168 scientific posters, and more than 60 exhibits and videos. He has also contributed extensively to the ophthalmic literature, including Cataract & Refractive Surgery Today, having authored 566 scientific publications, including 23 textbooks, 71 chapters in textbooks. He also trained more than 200 students and physicians during his medical career.
Dr. Apple was professor of ophthalmology and pathology, and director of the David J. Apple, MD, Laboratory for Ophthalmic Devices Research in Sullivan’s Island, South Carolina. Among the numerous awards and recognitions bestowed upon Dr. Apple were the AAO Hall of Fame Award in 2007, the Innovator’s Kelman award in 2005, and the Binkhorst Lecture and medal in 1988. He is the only American to have been selected to give the European Guest Lecture at the highly respected Oxford Ophthalmological Congress, Oxford, in 1998.
A graduate of Northwestern University and University of Illinois College of Medicine, he served his internship and residency in pathology at Louisiana State and Charity Hospital in New Orleans. He completed his residency in ophthalmology at the University of Iowa in 1979. According to the biography posted on his practice’s Web site, his highest academic honors include his election to the German Academy of Research in the Natural Sciences, Deutsche Akademie der Naturforscher (Leopoldina), the American Academy of the Advancement of Sciences, as well as equivalent societies in Paris and Rome. He also received the American Academy of Ophthalmology Life Achievement Honor Award.
Dr. Apple entered the ophthalmic field with a background as an anatomic pathologist with interest and training in ophthalmic pathology. During much of the 1980s, Dr. Apple used his extensive training in pathology to evaluate the effects of various IOL designs and materials on intraocular tissues. In 1981, he was recruited by Randall Olson, MD, in Utah to collaborate on some cadaver eyes with early IOLs at that time. Their work led to the founding of the Center for Intraocular Lens Research at the University of Utah.
“David Apple was a giant in our field and has done more than any individual living or deceased to help us understand intraocular lenses and their complications,” Dr. Olson wrote in an email to CRSToday.
“David was never a clinician so he had an open viewpoint on issues that liberated his way of viewing clinical problems. He was a master teacher and has had fellows over the years that reads like a who’s who of international ophthalmology. He was fiercely loyal to his ‘Apple Korp,’ as he loved to call his present and former fellows,” Dr. Olson said.
Alan N. Carlson, MD, professor of ophthalmology and chief of corneal and refractive surgery at the Duke Eye Center in Durham, North Carolina, described Dr. Apple as the “greatest contributor to the safety of modern cataract and intraocular lens surgery.”
“His legacy in the fields of ophthalmology and pathology will endure as no single individual has done more to advance the concepts contributing to the safety and efficacy of intraocular lens used in modern cataract surgery,” Dr. Carlson wrote. The advancement of IOL use into mainstream practice did not come easy, or without much controversy.
In an article he authored for CRSToday in 2004, Dr. Apple described the harsh and misguided perception of many peers in the 1980s regarding IOL technology during the early stages of adoption:
“In the mid-1980s, many physicians (including members of the academic medical establishment) still did not accept much of [Ridley’s] work. Even his lens implant, inarguably one of the most important innovations in the history of ophthalmology and a blessing to society, was widely criticized. Sir Harold’s presentations regarding his invention were often met with skepticism, invective, and scorn.”
Dr. Apple is survived by his wife, Ann Addlestone Apple, a stepson, a stepdaughter, two step-grandchildren, one nephew and two nieces.
1. Apple D. Sir Harold Ridley: a pioneer in the quest to eradicate blindness worldwide. Cataract & Refractive Surgery Today. 2004;(4)3: 47-52.
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